Hagelian Dialectic


     One would think that the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next US Secretary of Defense would have caused Jews, and Americans’ comfortable with the projection of American power across the globe, some cause for concern, and for Jews, a reassessment of their voting patterns. Not so fast.

     Obama opponents are not surprised, Obama acolytes are unperturbed, but the most interesting reaction came from a well-known ADL voice who opined to the Wall Street Journal that he does not understand how President Obama could choose someone “who policies are so out-of-sync with his own,” or something of that sort. Funny how the obvious answer – that Obama chose someone whose policies are quite in sync with his own (all election rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding) never occurred to this commentator.

    Indeed, both the Hagel nomination for the Pentagon and the John Kerry nomination to head the State Department are ominous but not unforeseen. (This space anticipated a Kerry nomination back in October.) And that is not because of the unfortunate statements that Hagel has made over the years about Jews and Israel, nor because of Hagel’s astonishingly insensitive defense of his Israel record: “I have voted to give Israel about $35B over the years,” as if to say, you know, that’s all the Jews want anyway, money.

    We should not bandy about the phrase “Jew-hater” too wantonly; it is a hideous accusation today, akin to being called a “racist.” The accusation is the indictment, and punishment comes forthwith. In fact, there is a limit as to how anti-Jewish any American politician can be, whatever their private beliefs, and such accusations here are unwarranted and undeserving. Nor does “money” play a role in ascertaining one’s support or antagonism for Israel; Rand Paul is charged with being unsympathetic to Israel because he opposes foreign aid on the grounds that it makes little sense for America to borrow money from China to give to Israel, or any other country. That sounds like a reasonable proposition to me, but for the simple fact that America’s military aid to Israel is largely spent in the United States (approximately 70% of it) and so amounts to a US subsidy to the US arms industry. So one can be pro-Israel and oppose military assistance, or be anti-Israel and support military assistance. In any event, Congressional support for Israel is so bi-partisan and widespread that changes in aid are unlikely in the near future no matter who heads the Pentagon or the State Department.

     The Hagel problem boils down to a set of values and policies that will reduce the American profile in the world – something that can only cause the anti-American evildoers to rejoice. (Indeed, the Hagel nomination was greeted in Teheran with dancing in the streets; sometimes, an enemy’s visceral reaction is more indicative of the true nature of events than any spin politicians and talking heads can put on the matter. There is no Hagel thesis-antithesis-synthesis ahead: he, like Obama, is at core an isolationist who is not at all proud of the role American has played in the world. That is not say that Hagel will embark on his own international apology tour as Obama did, or that Hagel will be caught bowing to the Saudi king. It is that bad things happen in the world – instability festers, problems linger until they explode – when the United States is in retreat.

     Israel is worried, because they assume that a Hagel as head of Defense means that the United States will never attack Iran, nor necessarily cooperate with Israel if Israel wishes to attack unilaterally. The sharing of intelligence will be muted; since that is mutual, that can affect US intelligence in the Middle East as well. The nightmare scenario of a nuclear armed Iran –and what that means for Israel and for the United States – is that much closer. A nuclear Iran will dominate the Persian Gulf destabilize the flow and the price of oil. In effect, Iran will play a more dominant role in the American economy, especially given Obama’s opposition to oil-drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Keystone pipeline. Rather than make America energy-independent – a distinct and realistic possibility within a decade – Obama is leaving the US at the mercy of Iran and prefers reliance on the sun and the wind. No wonder Iranians are dancing in the streets; Hagel has even long opposed sanctions against Iran.

     Much has been made – too much – of Hagel’s distinguished service in Vietnam, and all Americans honor that service. But service in the military qualifies one to head the Pentagon and formulate strategic doctrine as much as being a welfare recipient qualifies that person to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Patriotism is an admirable characteristic, but not necessarily a “qualification” for any particular job. As a Senator, Chuck Hagel was wrong more often than right – especially in his contemptuous dismissal of the Bush surge – the “worst mistake since Vietnam” – which, in fact, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. (Granted, it was a victory since squandered by the current administration.)

     Hagel is a problem, but John Kerry might prove to be an even bigger problem. Jews are always made a little nervous by people who deny or assert unawareness about their Jewishness. As is well known, Kerry’s grandfather immigrated to the United States, changed his name from Kohn to Kerry, converted, and passed himself off as an Irish Catholic until he allegedly met a tragic end. At times, Jewish roots inspire pride and further investigation into one’s heritage; other times, Jewish roots are perceived as painful and threatening, and induce an unconsciousness desire to suppress those memories and renounce those roots.

    But Kerry’s Jewish connection is not as troublesome as are his politics. It was just a few years ago that he described himself as a “good friend” of Basher al-Assad, the current butcher of Damascus. Assuming that Assad did not just in the last year transform himself into a monster, what sort of “friendship” was that? Indeed, while the personal relationship is probably exaggerated, the policy conclusions are not: Kerry believes in the stability wrought by dictators whom he thinks can be won over as American allies. That particular prescription has been fools’ gold for almost a century, and certainly – in the Arab world – in the last half-century; the United States has benefited little from those attempts.

    Essentially, the Arab world provides the US almost nothing but oil. But for oil, there would be no talk, or need to talk, of an “alliance.” Those “alliances” have always been unpredictable anyway, and such relationships have proved hazardous to Americans and US interests time and again. Dependency on despots is never salubrious. It should trouble Americans, therefore, the Obama administration has chosen energy dependence over independence, and chosen to align itself with the Muslim world – Turkey, Egypt, et al – and in the process completely ignoring the anti-American shifts that have occurred in those countries. The Kerry/Hagel dialectic will only hasten the reorientation of US foreign policy. That is not only bad for Israel and bad for the world, it is bad for America as well.

     Such are the consequences of elections, my fellow Jews. The spin being spun is that there is more to being pro-Israel than supporting Likud policies down the line. All true – but the Israeli political party must attuned to the Obama administration in its current drift and future trends is not Likud or Labor or even Kadima which is moving Achora so quickly it will soon be defunct; rather, Obama’s foreign policy is more closely aligned today with the Balad Party of Haneen Zoabi – who is also not worried about an Iranian bomb, who also favors a two-state solution (although she might mean two Arab states), and who is obviously pro-Muslim.

     As Chuck Hagel said quite forcefully several years ago, he is not the “Senator from Israel but a United States Senator.” Whatever his personal feelings towards Israel, his policies reveal that he clearly has never valued the US-Israel relationship as much as most of his colleagues do and as the American people and most prior administrations have. Assertively pro-Israel Democrats – like Chuck Schumer, for example – know the score and the problem and the spin, and are surely being tested now, including wrestling with this conundrum: the Kerry/Hagel approach is very much in sync with that of the President they enthusiastically endorsed, not at all a departure from it, and not good for Israel or the United States. As if the disregard of America’s spiraling deficit was not enough, you got what you voted for.

      Now what?

 (The above are my thoughts alone. Any similarity to the thoughts of other people, groups or institutions – real or imagined, living or dead – is purely coincidental.)



8 responses to “Hagelian Dialectic

  1. Lawrence Solomon: Israel can live without U.S. aid

    From Canada’s Financial Post

    A freed Israeli military economy would only propel its economy to new heights

    To the delight of Israel’s enemies and the dismay of its supporters, libertarian Senator Rand Paul, a potential Republican contender for the United States presidency, argued while in Israel this week that the U.S. should phase out the $3-billion per year in aid that it provides Israel’s military. Ending this aid along with U.S. aid to all foreign countries — call it the Rand Paul Doctrine — would actually leave Israel better off, he claimed to raised eyebrows.

    Criticism was quick, especially from Israel’s supporters in the U.S. Said Senator Bill Nelson: “Israel needs the full assistance of the U.S. It’s the only way Israel can remain secure.” Said the National Jewish Democratic Council: “Senator Paul’s misguided views on aid to Israel are plain wrong.”
    Read the rest of the column at:


  2. When John Kerry was running for President of the United States, one New York City Rabbi who is noted for his sense of humor called him:
    “the Baal Kerry.”

  3. Since no President ever before racked up a trillion dollar deficit in a single year, and Obama’s done it four straight years, that is spiraling to me. I stop counting after one trillion.

    • It depends if by deficit you mean, “This year’s deficit” or “the total United States deficit.”

      The total U.S. deficit is still due to grow by another Trillion plus dollars:

      $16,447,656,102,622 + $1,009,000,000,000 = $17,456,656,102,622.

      It is good that the amount it is due to grow this year has come down, but it is still only a fraction.

      President Obama’s presidency has produced four straight $1 trillion-plus deficits and is on course for a fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth.


      It is easy to be fooled by the cheerleaders. It is all Rationalization. The balance due is still higher after it is spent. The fact that America can march on with the growing burden, doesn’t mean it is healthy to do so.

      There are articles out about Japan, Singapore and EU countries on the verge of their country’s financial reckonings coming due. People in Greece, retirees are pictured eating from soup kitchens; without EU bailouts there would be more.

      Americans – with the exception of Tea Partyists – have allowed the President, aided and abetted by Congress and the Senate by both parties to spend over a trillion dollars a year for the past four years. It is amazing to see both Parties give a pass on no budget year after year after year.

      President Obama told the Speaker, “We don’t have a spending problem.” He’s right: to date the Government has been allowed to spend as much as it wants.

      I pray and will lobby for America’s sake that the Debt Ceiling is defended starting this year. We all need to become Tea Partyists where it concerns the Budget Deficit – the TOTAL Deficit – and stop playing with credit cards.

      It is incredible that after the Housing bubble that we still have not learned as a Nation that eventually the bill has to be paid.
      And why haven’t we learned?
      Perhaps, because of bailouts?
      because everyone knows they can call a credit consolidation company and the Credit Card companies will write tens of thousands of dollars off of your bill?
      Because houses are NOT being foreclosed on; short sales and one’s mortgage debt is gone?
      Without Midat haDin, when we are lacking Judgement. Americans are becoming seriously compromised in our thinking on multiple levels.

  4. Caroline Glick’s recent column seconds the points the Rav makes regarding the (further) damage to America the appointment Mr. Hagel may achieve if not stopped.

  5. Rabbi Pruzansky said:
    “…Kerry’s grandfather immigrated to the United States, changed his name from Kohn to Kerry, converted, and passed himself off as an Irish Catholic…”

    This reminds me of another high government official whose grandfather was a Jew who converted to Christianity: Caspar Weinberger.

    If my memory is correct, Caspar Weinberger is directly responsible for the fact that Jonathan Pollard is still in jail.

  6. Alan Greenspan warned two years ago about the growth of the total national deficit. I share it here to help explain the danger unseen by most of the public. Many in the public think that the amount owed doesn’t matter, the article explains that the interests payments on the debt can explode when – and it will eventually happen – the Fed needs to raise interest rates to fight inflation. This will greatly affect the Federal budget, because huge amounts will have to be allocated to manage the debt and these amounts will not be available for the budget’s items per se. (i.e., if one has to pay $1,000 a month to pay their credit card’s minimum balance, that is $1,000 one cannot spend on what they need for their household. Except in this case, we’re talking about millions of BILLIONS of dollars monthly:

    1% annual interest on the deficit of $16,447,656,102,622 is: $164,476,561,026. The monthly payment is $13,706,380,086, 13.7 billion dollars the Fed must issue and auction bonds to merely *float* the debt, i.e., carry it forward.

    If the interest rate goes up by even half a percent to 1.5% the montlhy payment goes up by over 7 billion dollars to $20,559,570,128. The annual interest charge goes up by over 82 billion to a total – of just the interest! – $ 246,714,841,539. $246 billion dollars of interest only! ONE QUARTER of the entire year’s expenditures at *today’s* unhealthy rate.

    This means that even if we get responsible leaders elected and they reduce spending, they will be hamstrung by the interest payments on the debt. Not only won’t they have enough money to pay for budget items they did in the past, it will also endanger paying for pensions, Social Security and Medicare – but now the new Government entitlement Obamacare too!

    It should take anybody a split second to see that we will not be able to afford to pay our bills. Adding expenditures and new entitlements programs like the (sic) “Affordable” Care Act pour fuel on the fire.

    Here is the article from BloggingStocks.com:

    Greenspan: U.S. national debt, not weak dollar, is the concern

    Posted Oct 15th 2009 4:30PM by Joseph LazzaroJoseph Lazzaro
    Filed under: Forecasts

    One of the nation’s foremost economic minds is sending an alarm signal regarding the U.S. budget deficit and national debt.

    Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he’s not “overly concerned” about the recent weakness in the U.S. dollar, Bloomberg News reported Thursday. However, Greenspan is concerned about the long-term costs to the United States associated with its rising national debt.

    “There are equations in which certain relationships become progressively explosive,” such as if a spiral starts in which increasing interest payments increase the deficit and debt, leading to another increase in interest payments, and so on, Bloomberg News reported.

    Fiscal Analysis: Policy makers in Washington should heed Greenspan’s words. Even with recent weakness, the dollar has basically returned to its level before the financial crisis; moreover, the dollar’s value is partially a function of the large U.S. budget deficit and national debt. On the latter, presently, interest rates are relatively low, with the United States still benefiting from a flight-to-safety into U.S. Treasuries, which has lowered long-term interest rates below what they would have been in normal times (the rate the U.S. government pays on its bonds is certainly lower than the rate lenders would charge other nations, if they had a similar per capita national debt).

    However, the period of relatively low interest rates will not last forever. As the global recovery accelerates, institutional investors will rotate out of safe Treasuries and into higher risk/higher return investments, and long-term interest rates will likely rise — increasing the U.S.’s borrowing costs. The specter of rising rates is one major reason why, after a deficit-cutting health care reform package is passed, Congress must turn its attention to cutting the budget deficit — including further spending cuts and a tax increase. If Congress acts courageously, the budget can be balanced by fiscal year 2016, assuming a normal GDP growth rate in the U.S.


    Needless to say, the President has not accepted any brave budgets from Congress and continued to spend over a Trillion dollars a year – with the complicity of Republicans and Democrats alike – who allowed the debt ceiling to be lifted, just to insure that the Bush tax rates remained in place. It’s the Wise Men of Chelm all over again.

    The rank irresponsibility of Republicans and Democrats and the citizens of our country for not encouraging them to act responsibly with our tax dollars is deplorable and must change.

    We all need to get the word out and I for one write regularly to my government representatives and call in to the White House.
    It would seem that clergy around America are in a good position to lead their congregants to lobby their Senators and Congressional Representatives to start working on a solution while we can still do so in a slower, less drastic fashion than, G-d Forbid, a financial collapse and depression.

  7. “The Hagel problem boils down to a set of values and policies that will reduce the American profile in the world – something that can only cause the anti-American evildoers to rejoice.”

    This is the central thesis in Dinesh D’Souza’s film, 2016: Obama believes that the world would be a better place if America’s role in it is diminished. Everything Obama does makes sense when viewed through this lens. That liberals would elect a man who would actively work to weaken his nation is a testament to how deranged they are. But it was a master stroke of the progressive elite to put forward a (half) black man because to question his policy is to reveal your latent racism. He is untouchable. And the mainstream media demonstrate this every day as they lob him softballs and give him passes that they would never concede to a conservative.

    Where are all of the liberal harridans who stalked Bush 2 outside of ranch? Why is there no outcry from progressives on Obama’s unrestrained use of drone strikes on “terrorists” that kill and maim civilians?